[Peter at Pentecost]
And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Do you get the feeling there is more going on in today’s news than what they’re telling us? Do you think there is something big that is left out by reporters and pundits? I do, and I want to tell you what I think it is.
I have always appreciated John Calvin saying that the Bible is like eyeglasses that help us to see the world aright, and that without the spectacles of Scripture we will have blurry vision and be confused. (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, I, xiv. 1) And we will be confused unless we see that behind today’s horrific news there are spiritual forces working and that we need to be doing spiritual battle.
The apostle Paul seeks to remind Christians about this spiritual battle: “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but…against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6: 12). We must, therefore, Paul says, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power” and “take up the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10, 13). Behind each day’s news, we must see with clearer vision a cosmic, spiritual battle advancing, and we must respond accordingly.
Note in today’s scripture that on the Day of Pentecost the apostle Peter was able to see satanic forces at work behind the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. Peter saw clear-eyed that Roman and Jewish leaders were acting in “ignorance”. Thus, Jesus prayed for Father to forgive them, “for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus faced trial under the two greatest legal codes of antiquity, Israel, and Rome, and yet history’s only truly just man could not find justice. There were other forces at work to destroy. Elsewhere Paul says “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). Behind world leaders, there are evil forces at work.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was helped by the spectacles of Scripture to see the powers at work behind Hitler and the Third Reich. In the days leading up to World War II Bonhoeffer tried to awaken German Christians to the news behind the news:
“How can one close ones eyes at the fact that the demons themselves have taken over the rule of the world, that it is the powers of darkness who have made an awful conspiracy, and could break out at any moment? How could one think that these demons could be driven out, these powers annihilated with a bit of education in international understanding, with a bit of good will?”(A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
More recently, English churchman and theologian John Stott sought to warn Christians about what is happening in our world:
“Has God through Jesus Christ broken down the walls dividing human beings of different races and cultures from each other? Then the devil through his emissaries will strive to rebuild them. Does God intend his reconciled and redeemed people to live together in harmony and purity? Then the power of hell will scatter among them the seeds of discord and sin.(John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians)
Tragically, this is what we see today playing out in the streets of our nation’s capital, Portland, Chicago, and Kabul! That is the real news behind the news. No fake news here.
The crushing of God’s enemies is vividly described in the last book of the Bible! But it is time for us now to up our prayer, put on the full armor of God, and be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power.
A fellow traveler,